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Garmin Approach S6 Watch

The Garmin Approach S6 is the best golf GPS watch we’ve tested to date, combining overhead hole maps with a touchscreen to determine the distance to any point on the golf course…and it’s all available on your wrist. When we first heard about the overhead maps, we had doubts – how can you implement that level of functionality on the limited screen space of a watch? Garmin has devised an elegant solution using automatic zoom. At the tee box, the S6 automatically zooms on the area on the hole map that corresponds to your typical driving distance (which you input into the watch when you set it up). So if you’ve told the watch that you drive the ball 250 yards, it will zoom in to the area 250 yards down the fairway to show you what’s around your typical landing area. More about that below, but it really is a nifty way to provide the most relevant information to you when you need it – and there’s always the option to zoom back out and pick another area.

Garmin also provides an excellent set of features, including full scoring and statistics tracking (with the ability to sync the S6 to your Garmin Connect account and view aggregated data across all saved rounds), shot measurement, Bluetooth pairing to your phone to enable notifications to your watch, an odometer, and “PinPointer”, which is supposed to tell you the direction of the pin if you are taking a blind shot. But wait, there’s more! The Garmin S6 also has a “SwingStrength” feature to measure (you guessed it) your swing strength and tempo and a “TempoTraining” feature to work on achieving the optimal tempo for your swing. There are varying levels of success with which these features are executed, but at the very least they make the Garmin S6 fun to play with.

We won’t lie to you – the $399.99 price tag is steep. And there are some areas for improvement, like having hazard distances available in list form, and not just through using the touchscreen. But we’re willing to overlook those issues because we’ve fallen for the Garmin Approach S6, and fallen hard. In our opinion, the S6 truly sets the standard among the golf GPS watches currently on the market.

SCORE
95
GRADE
A
Setup/Syncing
90
Course Availability
100
Ease of Use
96
Course Details
91
Features
97
Accuracy
96
Cost/Value
92

Pros:

  • Overhead hole maps – on a watch!
  • Loads of statistical analysis available through synching to Garmin Connect
  • Strong course coverage
  • Handicap scoring

Cons:

  • Can’t see scorecard or statistics on the device (but can sync and view them on a mobile app or web page)
  • No list of distances to hazards – you must use the overhead hole map

Retail price: $399.99
Three year total cost: $399.99
Amazon.com: Check price now


90 / A-

SETUP/SYNCING

  • Really nice charging clip into which you snap the watch, enabling a nice snug connection every time. It may seem silly to highlight this, but on a surprising number of watches it’s difficult to tell whether the charging clip is connected or not.
  • No wall charger is provided, so the only way to charge the S6 is by plugging the USB cable into your computer.
  • The setup process for the Garmin Approach S6 was extremely simple and well designed. On the watch, you select a language (English, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, or Swedish) and unit of measurement (yards or meters), then enter your typical driver distance (which determines where the hole map will be zoomed when you’re standing on the tee box) and whether you’re right or left handed (which is relevant to the SwingStrength and TempoTraining features). After that, the watch directs you to the Garmin web site to download the Garmin Express program to your PC/Mac. Once you’ve done that and launched Garmin Express, you can create a Garmin Connect account online (to keep track of your scores and statistics), and the program will tell you if you need to update the course maps and/or software. You can then elect whether to perform any updates and sync the watch. The entire process took less than 10 minutes, and the instructions are complete enough that there was never any stress about whether things were being done correctly. If you need to download a new set of maps (usually if you’re changing geographical zones), it takes about 15 additional minutes. As a nice touch, Garmin lets you know that it is safe to walk away from that process so long as you don’t disconnect the device.
  • Once you’ve gone through the setup process, just charge up the battery and you’re good to go.
  • The only way you can sync the S6 to get software updates and course map updates is through the Garmin Express software on your PC/Mac. You can sync your saved rounds to your Garmin Connect account through either Garmin Express or by downloading the Garmin Connect mobile app and pairing the S6 to your mobile phone via Bluetooth. If you download the mobile app and log in to your Garmin Connect account, the app will guide you through simple steps to pair the S6 to your phone. From that point on, any scores that you save on the S6 will automatically be uploaded to your Garmin Connect account through the app.
  • One problem with the automatic uploading of your scores is that the S6 doesn’t differentiate between an actual round or when you’re just playing around with the S6 and looking at courses – it will just upload the score whenever you end a round. You can fix this by deleting the round, which you can do from your Garmin Connect account on the web. We couldn’t find a way to delete a round from the Garmin Connect mobile app.
  • Once the S6 is paired to your phone via Bluetooth, the S6 will display notifications of incoming calls, text messages (showing you the message itself), calendar reminders (displaying the name of the event), and any other notifications that you receive on your phone (i.e. events in your iPhone’s Passbook). The S6 can also provide an audible chime when you receive a notification, but your playing partners would probably prefer if you turned that feature off.
  • But of course it’s never all rainbows and unicorns. During one attempted sync of the S6 to a Mac, the Garmin Express software wouldn’t connect with the S6. After futzing around for about 15 minutes, including connecting and disconnecting the USB cable, rebooting the Mac, and having Garmin Express “forget” the device, we finally landed upon the idea of turning off the S6 and turning it back on (and then rebooting the Mac). Lo and behold, that did the trick. This was our one area of frustration in the setup/syncing process.


100 / A+

COURSE AVAILABILITY

  • Critical Golf Test: Garmin earned a perfect score in our course coverage test, where we select a random cross-section of courses across the country and evaluate whether those courses are available within a manufacturer’s databse.
  • Manufacturer’s Claims: Garmin claims to cover 38,000 worldwide courses which places it near the top of our course coverage comparison test. We put all of the weight of our scoring on the Critical Golf Test, as the Manufacturer’s Claims are based solely on what is listed on their web sites and in their marketing materials.


96 / A

EASE OF USE

  • The Garmin Approach S6 has a screen diameter of 1 inch, which provides a viewing area of about 0.8 square inches – very typical for a watch GPS device. It’s about the size of an average watch, allowing you to avoid the “that’s a big honkin’ watch” reaction evoked by many of the S6’s competitors.
  • The S6 weighs about 1.6 ounces (as tested), which is lighter than the previous generation S1 and S3 and makes the S6 the lightest golf GPS watch we have tested. The rubber and plastic body is available in either black/white (with a black body and a band that is black on the exterior and white on the interior), black/orange (with a black body and a band that is black on the exterior and orange on the interior), or white/black (with a white body and a band that is white on the exterior and black on the interior).
  • Navigating through the features of the Garmin Approach S6 relies upon the use of a combination of the touchscreen and the four physical buttons – you cannot solely utilize one or the other. As a result, the user interface is more of a learned process than an intuitive one.
  • Garmin markets up to 8 hours of battery life while using GPS. We had no troubles making it through a slow round on a public course, and since 8 hours of juice is unlikely to make it through two rounds (definitely not on a muni on a Sunday), we didn’t bother testing exactly how far it would go in a second round. Garmin claims up to 4 months of battery life if you use the S6 as a watch only, and 15 hours if you use it as a watch with Bluetooth notifications turned on.

For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of golf GPS device features.


91 / A-

COURSE DETAIL AND MAPPING

Garmin Approach S6 Watch

Click for images
  • The true differentiating factor of the Garmin Approach S6 is the availability of overhead hole maps on a watch screen. As mentioned above, the clever implementation that makes this work on such a small screen is the use of an automatic zoom function.

    • Hole View – Shows the hole number, the par of the hole, the distance to the center of the green, and, in smaller font, the distances to the near and far points on the green. If the position of the “flag” is moved on the Green View (see below), the distance to the repositioned “flag” will be displayed here instead of the distance to the center of the green. In addition, if you are using handicap scoring, the S6 will calculate and indicate (with a number of dots) how many strokes you receive on that hole. How cool is that?!?!
    • Layup View – Touching the Hole View screen will advance you to the Layup View, which is a purely text screen displaying the distance to layups every 50 yards (from a 100 yard layup to a 250 hard layup), as well as the distance to any doglegs on the hole. Since this is only a list of text distances, there isn’t much context to where the layups are on the hole, so we found the layup distances to be largely useless. Of greater utility, however, is that the distance to any user-created locations (up to five per hole) are also displayed on this screen (see below).
    • PinPointer View – Touching the Layup View screen activates the PinPointer feature, which is essentially a compass where the “needle” indicates the direction of the pin and in which the distance to the pin is displayed in the middle of the screen. The intent of PinPointer is to provide the direction to the pin when you have a completely blind approach shot. In our testing, the direction indicated by the needle was pretty rough, and often varied from the true direction by several degrees. As a result, we wouldn’t advise relying on this function for any real indication of where the pin is – at best it just gives you a VERY rough idea of the general direction of the green.
    • Map View – At the tee, the Map View will default to showing an overhead map of the hole zoomed around the distance that you typically hit your driver. As discussed above, as part of the initial set-up process of the S6 you input your driver distance (this can be revised later from the device). When you touch on any point on the zoomed view, the S6 draws an arc on the screen through that point and displays the distance to reach that arc. The zoomed view will also refresh to be centered on the point that you touched. It’s not perfect – when you’re trying to touch a point on the screen, your finger blocks your view, and the zoomed view displays hazards, but not trees, which is odd, since we know that Garmin includes trees in its overhead maps on other golf GPS devices. But with a little practice, it becomes pretty useful.

      You also have the ability to zoom out to see the entire shape of the hole. From the zoomed out view, you can touch any point on the hole to zoom in on that point. You can also touch the flag icon on the Map View to zoom in on the green (see “Green View” below).

    • Green View – This screen displays a graphic of the shape of the green and any surrounding hazards, with a “flag” that can be positioned by simply touching the screen– the distance to the “flag” is given in this view.
    • Scoring View – Pressing the bottom right button on the S6 will put you into scoring and statistics mode. These views enable you to enter your score, number of putts, and whether the fairway was hit or whether it was to the left or right (but not short). Your score relative to par (+3, etc.) for the round is displayed on each of these screens, but there is no way to view an overall scorecard or the statistics for the round on the device itself – you have to sync with a mobile device or computer to view that level of detail (see below under “Features – Statistics”).
    • Time View – Displays the time and the date.
    • Measurement View – Activated when you press the “Mark Ball” button, this view displays the distance away from where you were when the “Mark Ball” button was pressed. Holding down the “Mark Ball” button will reset the point from which distances are measured. The Garmin S6 will automatically reset the measuring point when you advance to the next hole.
  • Hole handicap information is not displayed on the Garmin Approach S6. However, the S6 does know the hole handicap, and if you enable handicap scoring, it will determine and display how many strokes you receive on each hole on the Hole View screen.
  • Users can custom mark up to 5 locations per hole. When you are standing at the location you want to mark, you press the “Save Location” button, and then choose one of the set labels to identify that location – bunker, water, fairway, tree, hazard or layup. The distance to that location will be indicated on the Layup View (i.e. you will see “Tree 35” when you are 35 yards away from the tree that you marked). The locations are saved and available to you for any future rounds that you play on that course.


97 / A+

FEATURES

Garmin Approach S6 Watch

Click for larger image
  • Shot Tracking. The Garmin Approach S6 can measure shot distances, and will continue to do so even if you toggle to different screens. If you advance to the next hole (either automatically or by manually changing the hole), the distance will reset. There is no ability to save the shot distance information or link the distances to clubs in order to calculate average shot distances.
  • Auto-Advance. The S6 will automatically advance to the next hole during play. Manually changing holes is easily done through the up/down buttons. There is no way to turn off the auto-advance feature.
  • Scoring. You can track your own score throughout the round, but not for any of your playing partners. The Garmin Approach S6 lets you select between standard stroke play scoring and Stableford scoring. It also enables you to utilize handicap scoring, implemented either through manually entering the number of strokes to be subtracted from your score or letting the S6 make an automatic calculation based on your handicap index and the course’s slope rating. As mentioned above, the Hole View will indicate how many strokes you receive on that hole if you’ve activated handicap scoring. Impressive!
  • Statistics.The Garmin Approach S6 will track a number of statistics, including the number of putts, the number of greens in regulation (which is automatically determined by the S6 based on the par for the hole, your score on the hole and the number of putts), whether the fairway was hit or missed, and whether it was missed left or right.
  • Scoring and Statistics Evaluation.You can save your rounds to the Garmin Approach S6, but cannot view the scorecard or statistics on the watch itself. You can, however, sync the S6 either through Bluetooth to the Garmin Connect mobile app or by plugging it into your computer and using the Garmin Express software. The scorecards and statistics are then viewable either on the Garmin Connect mobile app or the Garmin Connect web page. There’s a ridiculous amount of information that can be viewed – not only can you see how you’ve scored on a particular course over time, but you can see the data for each hole. For example, you can see aggregated data on how you’ve performed on the 8th hole of your local muni – your fairways hit, which direction you’ve missed the fairway, GIR percentage, and putting average. One fun feature is that Garmin will show your “dream” round for a given course by adding up the best score you’ve gotten on each hole to show what you could’ve shot on a perfect day.
  • Notifications. If you pair your mobile phone to the Garmin Approach S6 through Bluetooth, the watch will then display any alerts generated by your phone (whether they relate to your calendar or specific apps). It will also notify you of any incoming phone calls or text messages (including showing the content of the text).
  • Swing Training Apps.The Garmin Approach S6 incorporates two training modes to help you improve your swing –TempoTraining and SwingStrength. TempoTraining is based on studies that have shown that tour pros almost all have the same 3:1 ratio of the duration of their backswings to their downswings. The total duration of the swing may vary, but the ratio of backswing to downswing is uncannily always 3:1. TempoTraining aims to help you develop the same tempo. The S6 uses an accelerometer to determine when your backswing and downswing begin and end, and will graphically display whether you’re fast or slow in each segment. It can also emit tones to tell you when to begin and end each portion of your swing, but while the tones were much more useful than just reviewing the results after the fact, we quickly determined that those around us on the driving range weren’t big fans of the incessant beeping.

    SwingStrength doesn’t really measure the absolute power of your swing. Rather, you calibrate it by taking swings until you’ve had one that you consider to be “good” (after each calibration swing the device asks you if the swing was good or not). Once you’ve selected a “good” swing, the SwingStrength app will compare future swings to that “good” swing and indicate their relative power (i.e. 85% of the “good” swing, or 110% of the “good” swing). You will also see a graphic display of the swing tempo from TempoTraining. You can calibrate 3 clubs – a wood, a long iron and a short iron.

    It’s hard to predict whether either of these apps will lead to any real improvement in your swing, although if you practice consistently, we would guess that they can only have a positive effect. TempoTraining seems to have the most promise if the audible tones are left on, but as we mentioned, it may drive the person next to you on the driving range to wrap a 9-iron around your neck. Caveat emptor!

  • Miscellaneous. The S6 has a basic odometer that displays the distance you’ve traveled and how long you have been traveling.
  • Preferences. The Garmin Approach S6 offers a broad range of adjustable settings, including whether tones are emitted by the watch, the look of the display (black on white or white on black, and the color of the accent lines), the scoring method (stroke play or Stableford), how handicaps are determined (manually or through your index and the course’s slope rating), whether statistic tracking is enabled, whether the time is manually entered or automatic and whether it is displayed in 12 or 24 hour format, the language (English, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish or Swedish), the units (meters or yards), and whether the screen locks automatically or not.

For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of golf GPS device features.


96 / A

ACCURACY

The S6 returned distances within our standard expected range of variance for GPS devices, usually plus or minus up to 4 yards from actual distances (based on marked sprinkler heads).


92 / A-

COST/VALUE

Retail Price: The Garmin S6 golf GPS watch retails for $399.99, which makes it the priciest golf GPS watch in our tests.

Fees for Access to Course Database: As with other devices in the Garmin family, the Approach S6 carries no additional fees for course map updates.

Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: With no additional yearly fees to download the latest course information, the three-year total cost for the S6 remains $399.99. At this price point, it is still the costliest golf GPS watch in our tests.

Value: Yes, it’s very expensive. But it is sooooo cool, with features that no other watch can touch. If you’re looking at a high end golf GPS watch, we think the Garmin Approach S6 is worth the splurge.


GolfBuddy PT4

GolfBuddy continues their model numbering system we haven’t deciphered yet with the GolfBuddy PT4. This top-of-the-line GolfBuddy replaces the GolfBuddy World and GolfBuddy Platinum. It notably features an extremely large 4″ high-resolution touchscreen and slimmer body design. While players generally think first of SkyCaddie and Garmin, the GolfBuddy PT4 features stats tracking, distances to any point on the course, pin placement capability and customizable targets, and with excellent course coverage and no annual fees, it shouldn’t be overlooked.

Retail price: $399.99
Three year total cost: $399.99
Amazon.com: Check price now

Laser Link Red Hot 2

The Laser Link Red Hot 2 continues the pistol-shaped design that Laser Link is known for and provides the ability to obtain distances to any point on the golf course, unlike the more limited-use Laser Link QuickShot, which is designed to only pick up distance to flagsticks with reflective prisms. The Red Hot 2 (RH2) has a more ergonomically-friendly curved rubber handle, a red dot in the viewfinder for aiming, and the ability for distance confirmation to provide sound, be silent, or vibrate when locked on to a target.

The Red Hot 2 improves on the prior Red Hot with targeting to increased range to 1000 yards, a lighter weight of 6.4 ounces, smaller size (5.375″ x 2″ x 3.125″), and claimed improved optics and electronics for faster and more accurate measurements (to +/- 1 yard). The device uses one 9-volt alkaline battery, and is only available in the grey body with red grip.

While the RH2 is available at a much more attractive (and realistic) price point than the prior generation offering, the downside and biggest difference from the competition remains the lack of any magnification in the viewfinder. And well, we have grown used to the binocular-style rangefinders with 6x magnification.

Retail price: $249
Amazon.com: Check price now

Nikon COOLSHOT

Available during their laser rangefinder relationship with Callaway (branded as the Callaway RAZR), Nikon rolls on selling the COOLSHOT rangefinder on its own with slightly different white and blue design.

The Nikon COOLSHOT is marketed as the smallest and lightest Nikon rangefinder, at 4.4″ x 2.8″ x 1.6″ and weighed by Nikon at 165g excluding battery. The device has the “First Target Priority” of previous Nikon rangefinders, seeking the nearest object in its line of sight, and can perform panning for up to 8 seconds. There is solid 6x magnification, distances shown in increments of 0.5 yards to 600 yards, and LED illumination for easier viewing in dark conditions. The COOLSHOT is waterproof to 1 meter for 10 minutes, and houses one CR2 battery in a water resistant chamber. To conserve battery life, the rangefinder powers off after 8 seconds.

Nikon COOLSHOT

Click to enlarge

Note that the COOLSHOT was introduced at a price point quite a bit less than the original RAZR, which retailed at $349.95. So if you don’t have a need (or desire) for slope-adjusted distances (either because you play competitive tournaments or not), and like the idea of saving $70, you’ll want to consider the COOLSHOT.

Retail price: $279.99
Availability: Discontinued. Replaced by the NIKON COOLSHOT 20
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Nikon COOLSHOT AS

The Nikon COOLSHOT AS is essentially the same device as the Nikon COOLSHOT golf laser rangefinder (and thus the Callaway RAZR), with $70 more (retail) getting you slope-adjusted distance readings with the company’s ID technology (so yes, this laser can’t be used in competitions, even with a local rule permitting distance-measuring devise). This carries over the ID technology reviewed earlier in the (now discontinued) Callaway idTECH, though the COOLSHOT AS does not have the (unnecessary) external display as did the idTECH – all of the slope and adjusted distance information is available via the internal viewfinder.

Nikon COOLSHOT AS

Click to enlarge

A black body with bright lime green accents make for a flashy device that is otherwise nearly identical in form factor to the COOLSHOT, just a bit heavier, also backed up by an laser with an LED offering continuous measurement up to 8 seconds, 6x magnification, Nikon’s “First Target Priority” (aka finds the closest object in its line of sight), and distancing to 600 yards. The COOLSHOT AS is waterproof (10 minutes up to 1 meter), with a water resistant chamber that holds one CR2 battery.

Retail price $349.99
Availability: Discontinued. Replaced by the Nikon COOLSHOT 40i
Amazon.com: Check price now


Titleist Ultra Lightweight

The Titleist Ultra Lightweight is, as you would expect, the lightest stand bag in the Titleist lineup, tipping the scale at 4.9 pounds (as tested with the rain hood). Note, however, that this is only about average in terms of weight among the carry bags that we have tested, although we admittedly focus on lighter bags. The feature set is relatively limited, with a 3-way full-length club divider, an apparel pocket, double straps, and a beverage sleeve. Oh, and in keeping with the idea that more options are better, Titleist offers the Ultra Lightweight in a whopping 8 color combinations. The $160 suggested retail price is in line with that of competitive lightweight bags.

The Titleist Ultra Lightweight will appeal to those seeking a light dual-strap bag who don’t care that it only has three dividers for the club storage area (although they are full-length) – many bags that we test have 5 or more. Our preference is for 5-7 club storage sections, which lessens the time poking around to find a specific club.

Retail price: $160
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now

Editor’s note: This review is for the 2014 version of the Titelist Ultra Lightweight. Manufacturers generally make minor changes to bag models each 1-2 years.

For those who are willing to take “lightweight” to an extreme, there is the Titleist Premium Carry bag, a collapsible bag that weighs under two pounds, but that lacks most of the features of a more full-featured carry bag, such as structure, legs, dual straps, and multiple pockets.


SCORE
88
GRADE
B+
Club Storage
86
Legs/Base
95
Straps
86
Pockets/Storage
86
Rain Hood
94
Carrying Impressions
87
Style
92
Innovation
86
Cost/Value
90

We appreciate the light weight of the Titleist Ultra Lightweight, which, at 4.9 pounds with its rain hood, is generally in line with the stand bags that are marketed as “lightweight.” We weren’t as pleased, however, with the paucity of padding on the shoulder straps, which isn’t where we’d choose to cut back to trim weight. The 4-point shoulder straps, which are increasingly common on new bags, were easy to adjust. The back padding on the bag is adequate, although it’s definitely not as plush as on some of the heavier bags.

We found the bag to be very stable when set down, with the leg mechanism extending the feet to a nice wide base. When the bag is picked up, the legs pull nicely flush with the bag, which keeps it from getting caught on your pants or towel. The downside is that the mechanism to extend the legs protrudes about an inch from the base, which can cause the base to catch on the base of driving or push carts if you aren’t paying attention. Though you can’t fold the plastic foot mechanism into the bag, the Ultra Lightweight does provide a Velcro strap to help lock the legs even more tightly against the bag when using a cart or when traveling. To pick up the bag there is a hand grip molded into the top rim of the bag and the ubiquitous rubber handle on the spine.

The Ultra Lightweight only has six pockets:

  • One large garment pocket runs along the right side of the bag, with a small velour-lined valuables pocket along the outside of the garment pocket. The valuables pocket is positioned closer to the bottom of the bag than on most carry bags, and is located on the outside of the bag, which seems a little less secure to us than if it were placed on the inside of the larger garment pockets. Both of these pockets are zippered.
  • Two zippered pockets on the spine of the bag, one of which is medium-sized and the other of which is smaller. We found the smaller pocket to be appropriate for golf balls and tees.
  • One zippered medium sized pocket on the left side of the bag, and an additional open insulted “cooler” pouch on the outside of this pocket, which is easily accessible when carrying the bag.
  • Not included in our pocket count is a pen holder, located just off the spine of the bag on the right side.

The Titleist Ultra Lightweight includes an umbrella loop and strap on the right side of the bag, and a circular Velcro patch to attach a glove. One nice innovation is that the ring for attaching towels and GPS devices actually opens like a carabiner, so you can attach items without requiring a separate carabiner or clip. There are no additional slots for tees or scorecards.

Titleist Ultra Lightweight

Click for features

We had the pleasure (?) of testing the rain hood in a downpour and had no complaints. There are four loops that secure the Velcro scraps on the rain hood to the bag, plus two additional Velcro straps that wrap around the shoulder straps where they attach to the bag to further secure the hood. The rain hood was easy to attach to the bag and kept the water out, and was big enough to enable easy access to clubs. The hood can also be peeled back during temporary breaks in the rain.

The Titleist Ultra Lightweight isn’t a flashy bag (excluding select color combinations described below). Other than the familiar Titleist logo, there isn’t much to catch the eye, which, depending on your personality, can be either a good or a bad thing. Our test bag was black (enabling us to stay in stealth mode as ball after ball is polished into the fescue), but there are eight different color combinations:

  • Black, with white trim
  • Black and white with red trim
  • Charcoal and white with “chili red” trim
  • Navy and black with charcoal trim
  • Royal and white with lime green trim
  • Charcoal and black with violet trim
  • Navy and red with white trim (U-S-A.! U-S-A!)
  • Charcoal and black with blue trim

The Titleist Ultra Lightweight doesn’t bring anything revolutionary to the game, and “ultra lightweight” means something different to Titleist than it does to us, but at least they’re moving in the right direction. It’s priced competitively, and works just fine, but the sacrifice of shoulder and back padding, club storage sectors and pockets was disappointing, as other bags of approximately the same weight (and price) are able to deliver these features.


ECCO BIOM Golf Hybrid

The ECCO BIOM Hybrid is a different class of shoe in both comfort and quality from the previously reviewed ECCO Street Premiere and the ECCO Street. The BIOM Hybrid can still be worn around town, but it breaks with the very street-styled looks of the other shoes in subtle ways, such as the yak uppers, a thicker midsole (including at toe and heel), and more support through the arch. It isn’t an inexpensive shoe, flirting with the $200 barrier, but we like it enough to still recommend it.

Retail price: $190
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SCORE
93
GRADE
A-
Design
93
Construction
95
Comfort
96
Value
92

BIOM is ECCO’s shorthand for “Biomechanical Optimization”, their techie-speak for the way the body moves. This technology is designed to let the body absorb impact, and frees the foot to move naturally. Over the course of a several month-long test period, the ECCOs continued to fit our feet very well and keep them comfortable through the longest rounds. The “Hybrid” part of the product’s name is simply ECCO’s marketing term for their family of spikeless golf shoes, and the term may or may not appear in the name of any particular ECCO spikeless shoe.

ECCO BIOM Hyrbid

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The design of the ECCO BIOM Hybrid doesn’t blend in as much as earlier shoes, but we didn’t feel self-conscious wearing these shoes into the local bar for beers and deviled eggs after a round. The BIOM Hybrid has a sportier look than the ECCO Street or the ECCO Street Premiere, due in part to the yak leather and more athletic-styled laces, but more importantly as a result of a thicker midsole that extends farther around the toes and wraps halfway up the heel. Mrs. Critical Golf continues to approve of ECCO designs, which, rest assured, is no small feat. At her recommendation, we went with the warm grey/lime punch (aka grey/neon green) color combination that works well with pants or shorts, though there are also subdued black/brick (black/red) and mahogany/fire (aka brown/red) options available.

The yak leather uppers of the BIOM Hybrid are extremely durable and abrasion resistant, unlike the ECCO Street and Street Premiere, both of which started to show some wear pretty rapidly. The yak hides can be cut thinner than other leathers, though we didn’t notice any change from theECCO Street, with both weighing in at 1.7 pounds (size 43), about average among the shoes we’ve tested. The yak leather also offers natural breathability.

If you want to play the course on wet days, the yak uppers are Hydromax-treated, which makes them highly water repellent and prevents the leather from hardening after repeating wetting and drying. We didn’t play through any downpours of rain (though living in Northern California, we wish we had the opportunity), but early morning dew and over-watered courses haven’t had any impact on these shoes. They aren’t waterproof, but for our uses, they do just fine. Plus this water-repellency (is that a word?) is also appreciated by Mrs.Critical Golf, as it promotes freshness and fights perspiration. Sounds like a win-win to us! Though the BIOM Hybrid has a breathable upper, there are still lines of perforations on either side of the shoe, above the toes, and on the tongue of the shoe.

ECCO BIOM Hybrid

Click for images

The spikes follow the same pattern on the sole as ECCO Street and ECCO Street Premiere, with rows of circular “spikes” that have additional rubber extending at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock from each spike. It is difficult to say if there has been any improvement over the original Streets. We certainly haven’t found ourselves regretting the shift away from golf shoes with cleats. While we don’t find ourselves slipping and sliding, we do try to be diligent about keeping the soles clean to maximize traction. We assume that sporting these shoes on pavement or other hard surfaces will result in faster wear, but didn’t notice any egregious changes from regularly use between the house, the golf course and the 19th hole.

We found the ECCO BIOM Hybrid to be the most comfortable of the ECCO spikeless golf shoes we have tried to date, with much improved support. With some golf shoes we will quickly replace the insole with something like the Sof Sole, but kept thee ECCO BIOM Hybrids as they came and had no complaints. Whether that was due to an improved insole (hey, of course we expect great things from an anatomically shaped triple-component insole unit which is a combination of polyester and ECCO CFS), a better midsole, or both is difficult to say, but in any event it saved us the trouble and cost of a separate insole purchase.

ECCO does offer a one-year limited warranty (no, you can’t return it after 9 months of use based on “poor fit” or “excessive wear”), so you don’t need to worry (right away) about their craftsmanship.

The ECCO BIOM Hybrid is at the high end among the shoes we’ve tested, and the $190 MSRP may result in a little sticker shock. It is quite a step up from the original ECCO Streetand ECCO Street Premiere, which retailed at $150 and $170, respectively. Even though we winced at the additional cost, we like to walk courses. A lot. And given the number of holes we log, we put a premium on comfortable shoes. The ECCO BIOM Hybrids were noticeably more comfortable than the ECCO Street and ECCO Street Premiere and many other shoes we’ve tested. As a result, even at the higher price point, we fully recommend the ECCO BIOM Hybrid.

Retail price: $190
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TRUE lyt dry

The TRUE lyt line is the 2014 update of the original TRUE tour, and takes its place as the highest performance shoe in the TRUE linkswear line. The “lyt” shoes are better looking than the original Tour, and continue to feature the company’s primary design differentiator – an extremely thin platform that is in TRUE’s word, lyt. We found the shoe to be extremely comfortable, with our only quibble being the height of the backstay/heel tab, which pokes at your achilles.

We chose the TRUE lyt dry as our test shoe, which features a waterproof leather upper that is useful for the morning moisture on Northern California courses. For those looking for something more breathable and perhaps more appropriate to some southern heat, consider the TRUE lyt breathe, which replaces the leather upper with a breathable mesh, and also features a sock fit opening.

Retail price: $149.99
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SCORE
92
GRADE
A-
Design
93
Construction
92
Comfort
91
Value
92

At a hair under 1.4 pounds (as tested), the TRUE lyt dry is one of the lightest shoes we have tested to date, second only to the Oakley Ciper 2 (the TRUE lyt breathe, TRUE’s lightest shoe to date, is even lighter, marketed at an amazing 1.1 pounds). It seemed slightly less flexible than the Tour, though perhaps it was just a result of the initial impression of the Tour, by far the lightest shoe we had tested at the time of our review. In any event, we would never say that the TRUE lyt dry was “stiff”, since these outsoles are among the thinnest and most flexible on the market.

The TRUE lyt line maintains a wide toe box, though it doesn’t appear to be quite as wide as the Tour, perhaps due to being slightly narrower at the balls of the feet. Though it lacks the thicker platform of most shoes, our reasonably finicky feet didn’t have any qualms with the combination EVA/rubber midsole, which extends from the toe mounds through the arch to the heel. We found the lyt dry to be among our favorite shoes and they have entered the rotation for regular use. At the very margins, we felt we could feel the ground a bit more in the TRUE Tour, and the back of the lyt dry at the achilles to be a bit less comfortable, though we will continue to evaluate this as our test shoes break in a bit more.

TRUE lyt dry – Grey/Lime

Click for images

While we went with the grey/lime color option, you can select from black/dark grey, white/salmon, and black/royal. The design of the options features a spotted upper, which at a glance will look more like a perforated material, though it is all leather. From a style standpoint, the lyt dry is more appropriate for general usage (like slipping into your local watering hole on the way home from a round) than the clown-like Tours, and sports a more muted range of color options. While the lyt dry doesn’t have the look of a traditional shoe, the design and comfort will make you wonder why you spent so long enduring the aching feet imposed by old-school saddle shoes. But if the design still scares you away, you can always check out the TRUE gent wingtip, which features a more classic design, or the TRUE oxford, which if not for some of the secondary colors would look right at home in an informal office or bar (or both).

The construction of the lyt dry was much improved over our pair of TRUE Tours, which didn’t meet Critical Golf QA standards. The Tour felt as if it actually had a bit more flexibility in the sole, though as mentioned, the lyt drys are a lighter shoe by a reasonable margin. The sole of the lyt dry, not surprisingly (new year…new design), features a pattern of alternating round and diamond shaped spikes, in comparison to the rectangular bars and squares found on the sole of the original Tour. The morning dew didn’t pose an issue for the waterproof lyt dry leather uppers or the sole design, though we did find that playing in a downpour (and we do mean downpour) left the tongue of lyt dry extremely worn from rubbing against the laces. This wear was only cosmetic and didn’t impact the performance of the shoe, but we were surprised how quickly the lyt dry aged in these conditions.

TRUE lyt dry – Grey/Lime

Click for image

We are increasingly gravitating toward these lighter more flexible shoes, and our initial hesitation about playing with spikeless shoes has long since passed. No, we can’t change the spikes and get more life out of our shoes, but by the time we did that we were due for a new pair anyway (and Mrs. Critical Golf had probably already banished the shoes and their distinctive “scent” to the corner of the garage). The TRUE lyt dry shoes are very comfortable, and as long as we are a bit more attentive about keeping the soles clear of clumps of accumulated dirt and grass, possess all the traction we require in a spikeless shoe.

At roughly $150 retail, the lyt dry comes at a more attractive retail price than the TRUE tour did at launch, and have the added benefit of waterproof leather, which generally drive the price of a given pair of shoes up. While this price is the highest in the TRUE family, it puts the lyt dry at about average within our spikeless golf shoe test group. It comes with a warranty to replace the shoes in the first year due if the waterproofing fails, and in the second year of the warranty will credit the customer 50% toward a new pair of shoes (they call this a two-year warranty, but we look at this as a year-plus).

We have become fans of the TRUE line, and recommend the lyt dry. Those who are put-off by the design or concerned about a thin-soled shoe should still give them a try – we think you will like what you feel.


Ship Sticks Golf Club Shipping Service Review

As much as we enjoy our ClubGlider Meridian golf travel bag, we wouldn’t mind some even more hassle free travel. Say for example if someone could pick up the clubs from our house and deliver them directly to the course. On time. Undamaged. Now that would make our lives easier.

Therein lies the premise for Ship Sticks, a company that provides delivery service for your golf clubs. Our recent trip to Erin Hills seemed like a perfect time to test out the Ship Sticks service, which we used for a 3-stop tour from our home in California to the Erin Hills golf resort, from Erin Hills to a residential community where we were staying on an extended vacation, and then back to our home in California. Since we hadn’t used a club-shipping service before, we teed up a few questions for Ship Sticks to get us started (much more info is available on the Ship Sticks FAQ). We think these are answers to the top questions that others will have as well:

  • The clubs can be shipped in a standard golf travel case (soft or hardsided) – they don’t need to be enclosed in a shipping box.
  • There is a 42 pound maximum to qualify for the “standard size” service (well, really 48 pounds, more on that below) – beyond that you’ll need to go with the “staff/XL” service, which offers up to 56 pounds at a higher price.
  • You can pack clothing and other additional items in your travel bag, just as you would for a plane flight, subject to weight and content restrictions. NOTE: Do not include any other items in your bag if you are traveling internationally, or you will risk having your bag held up in customers. Thanks to reader Paul for the information on international travel.
  • You can have the clubs picked up at your residence, place of work, a hotel or resort – basically anywhere that UPS can pick up or drop off. You can’t select the shipper that actually handles your clubs, but in most cases this will be UPS, as it was for us for all three segments.
  • There is no additional fee for having clubs picked up (versus dropping them off at a UPS store yourself) – sweet!
  • We break down the pricing at the end of this review, but to summarize: Ship Sticks is the lowest-cost solution of the best-known alternatives, though in most cases it will still cost you more than taking a bag with you on your flight (even with a second bag fee).
  • $1,000 of baseline insurance is included (you can purchase up to $3,500 of coverage at a relatively nominal fee), and there is $200 in “consequential insurance” included for delayed shipments. Oh, and if anything does happen, you only have 5 business days from the scheduled delivery date to submit a claim.

When we contacted Ship Sticks customer service with our questions, we were put through immediately, and the representative was very polite and had quick answers. We also tried the live chat on the Ship Sticks website, with connections within 15 seconds both times (impressive) and fast answers, as you would expect in a live chat. The only noticeable hiccup was one agent simply not responding to a question for 10 minutes(!) in our second chat. We’re guessing most prospective customers would have abandoned the session, but we stuck with it because, dear readers, that is just what we are willing to do for you! Plus we were multitasking anyways.

Comfortable with the answers to our questions, we signed up for a free account on Ship Sticks, and then filled in the necessary information about our trip. The process of setting up a shipment can’t be any simpler: enter your contact information, the pickup and destination addresses (if you are shipping to a resort that has a relationship with Ship Sticks, the resort’s address will be pre-populated in the Ship Sticks system), your pickup (or dropoff) date and date of arrival. You’ll want to make sure the date of delivery of your clubs is at least one day prior to your first day of play at your destination. You don’t want your clubs arriving at 2 PM on a day when you have an 8 AM tee time, do you? The Ship Sticks representative we spoke to by phone, who would prove to be quite prescient, recommended that we give an extra day buffer on shipment for peace of mind (a Wednesday arrival of clubs in advance of our first day of golf on Friday). Fair enough. Either way, our clubs were going to be in transit over the weekend prior to our first leg, so the loss of one more night at the range wasn’t a dealbreaker for us. More important to us was selecting the lowest-cost method of shipment (details on pricing below).

So to reiterate, you select the number of bags to ship, the size (standard or staff/XL), and amount of insurance (the price of additional insurance is independent of the distance and shipping method selected). Ship Sticks recommends $1,500-$2,000 in insurance, depending on which of their web pages (no that is not a typo) you are visiting. Then, based on where you are departing from and heading to, you’ll receive up to four different arrival date options and the prices for each: Next Day Air, Second Day, 3 Day Select or Ground. Note that days of shipment only include business days, so it excludes Saturdays and Sunday. For $199 you can get Saturday delivery, which is required to be an overnight shipment (more on this below). There is no pickup on weekends. Depending on how far your clubs are going and where they are going, you may not have all four shipping options available, and on occasion you may find that two of the options, such as Second Day and 3-Day Select, are both available at the same price (same price and faster service? Sounds good to us!).

Select the delivery option and enter your payment, then print out the labels that are sent to you in a confirmation email. Attach one label to your travel case or box, put a second label inside your case/box, and you’re done.

Home to Erin Hills

We requested, with just one day advance notice, that our clubs to be picked up at our home. The Ship Sticks team said that residences normally have afternoon/early evening pickup and deliveries between 12-6PM, but given the variance in UPS times, the schedule is quoted as a range between 9AM-6PM and Ship Sticks notes the shipper may pick up as late as 8PM. After setting up our shipment we received 2 of the same confirmation emails for each shipment. Oh well, at least they aren’t wasting paper. When selecting the standard 42 pound bag, your confirmation email will note that you may pack up to 48 pounds (the label for the bag will say 42 pounds as well). Confused? Ship Sticks allows for a variance up to 48 pounds, so don’t sweat going a bit over (but it’s a good idea to have a digital luggage scale to help determine the weight of your bag.

We set up both legs of our trip, from home to Erin Hills and Erin Hills to the residential community, at the same time so we wouldn’t have to worry about printing labels at the resort (recommended!). For those who want to link business and pleasure trips, Ship Sticks can arrange for the clubs to be “held” for a period of time during transit. So if you are going from a golf trip to another destination for your business meetings before returning, your clubs can be held up to 5 business days so you don’t have to worry about your clubs sitting on your doorstep while you are still out of town. There is a little extra cost (about $25), but given that it’s work-related, you can expense it, right? Bonus!

Resorts that have a relationship with Ship Sticks will be notified via email when you set up your shipment and provided with the expected date of delivery, as was the case with Erin Hills. We would recommend giving courses that don’t have a relationship with Ship Sticks a heads-up, both to find out how they handle clubs that are being shipped to them and how you should retrieve them upon arrival. It doesn’t hurt to add a note on your shipping label indicating your date of arrival at the resort and that you are a guest (or simply what day(s) you are playing) to provide the course with additional information.

We received an email from Ship Sticks the day before our scheduled shipment date (Wednesday) that we needed to confirm to them when our clubs were packed and ready to be picked up, and we responded with our confirmation email a bit after 8AM PST Thursday that the clubs were ready. We were comfortable leaving the travel bag for Ship Sticks outside our front door for the day, and didn’t mind the lack of a need to sign for delivery (What’s the worst that could happen? Stolen clubs would give us the perfect excuse with Mrs. Critical Golf to head to our nearest golf club fitting center to get set up with a new custom clubs). Those more concerned about the safety of their clubs can elect to drop them off at the neighborhood UPS store as well. If you leave your clubs for pickup at your home, no notification of pickup will be provided.

We have no idea if our confirmation email made it through Ship Sticks to UPS to trigger pickup, or whether they had us scheduled already, but our clubs were picked up a mere 2 hours after we sent our confirmation email. That’s the good. The negative was that we still didn’t see any tracking status information (accessible via the Ship Sticks website) until 9:45PM. It would be a nice if Ship Sticks would let customers know that their clubs have been picked up and are safely on the way to their destination. In order to get tracking updates, you’ll either need to click on the link to the Ship Sticks tracking page for your shipment (available on your confirmation email after setting up your pickup date) or log in to your account on the Ship Sticks website.

Our clubs arrived as scheduled the following Wednesday (at 10AM CST), and although Ship Sticks states that they will email you when the clubs arrive, we did not receive a notification. Which added a bit of stress about whether the clubs arrived or not! Oh well, at least they arrived on time, right? Our advice: contact Ship Sticks to get your UPS or FedEx number (this number isn’t available when you check tracking on the Ship Sticks website, nor does Ship Sticks provide it with the shipping confirmation, you need to request this separately), and then set up status updates directly from the shipper’s website to ensure you are notified. Problem solved.

On arrival, our clubs were held in club storage at Erin Hills and then delivered to our room without us lifting a finger. More enjoyable than traveling with our clubs, for sure!

Erin Hills to Residential Community

Coordinating pickup of the clubs from Erin Hills was even simpler than at home – we simply left the packed clubs in our room (the bellman took them to Erin Hills storage) with a new shipping slip affixed, and off we went. If you are looking for something easier than that, you won’t find it. It was a much shorter trip from Wisconsin to our vacation home in Michigan, so the shipping charges ($39.99) were not much more than the second bag fee we would have paid on our Delta flight, and actually lower than the second bag fee on some airlines.

We left Erin Hills on a Sunday, and with no weekend pickup, the clubs were held by the resort until UPS came to get them on Monday. As with the first leg of our trip, we didn’t see tracking information until late in the day of pickup (Monday at 10PM), though undoubtedly it was picked up earlier by UPS. Interestingly, the Tracking page on the Ship Sticks website showed a “To” address with WI (Wisconsin) as the state instead of MI (Michigan), meaning that this information is for whatever reason being manually entered into their systems. So while not accurate, it was minor and wouldn’t override my shipment in any way – this (incorrect) information is just for reference on the Ship Sticks website. When logged in to the Ship Sticks you can also view profile information and shipment history, though we received timeout and web reference errors whenever we tried to view shipment history throughout all three legs. This wasn’t the only place where we ran into errors – the site also has a couple of links that don’t work. A little more polishing seems to still be needed…

The clubs arrived as scheduled on Wednesday in the early afternoon, and on this leg we were notified via email as promised that our clubs had arrived. Now batting .500 on confirmation emails.

Residential Community to Home
For the final leg home we set up shipment selecting the slowest (aka least expensive) option, which was $59.99 for shipment leaving on a Monday and delivery on Friday – the most expensive option was overnight delivery for $159.99. We picked up $1,500 of additional insurance (in addition to the $1,000 of coverage already included), which cost an additional $3.75.

Curiously, though the site saved our credit card information, it didn’t automatically save our shipping locations (ala Amazon, for example), so we had to re-enter both our pickup and destination addresses again. We manually added these addresses to our Ship Sticks Address Book later, and these address will now populate for future shipments.

We checked the Ship Sticks site and confirmed our clubs were picked up on Monday (a pickup scan just before 10AM). Great. What wasn’t so great was that at 11PM on Friday our clubs still hadn’t arrived. Here is where Ship Sticks isn’t able to keep up with the major alternatives – their office hours are only Monday-Friday 8:30PM-5:30PM EST. So at 11PM PST we weren’t able to reach anyone by phone to get additional tracking information. We tried calling UPS, waiting 17 minutes to get through, and once we did we found that unless you have a UPS tracking number, they are unable provide any information (even though they had our delivery address and name they claim they can’t track a shipment…which makes no sense to us). Unfortunately the Ship Sticks Tracking ID information that is provided won’t help you track your clubs outside of the Ship Sticks website. Ship Sticks has an after hours email support contact, so we sent an email and received a response about 4 hours later that Ship Sticks was investigating. This made it even more clear to us that best practice is to follow-up with a call to Ship Sticks after your clubs have been picked up and request the UPS or FedEx tracking number so you can track the clubs on your own. We replied to the Ship Sticks email asking for the UPS tracking number, but received no reply.

A Ship Sticks representative called us mid-morning next day to apologize and said they were looking into why our clubs weren’t delivered on time. The representative said they knew that something went wrong with the shipment on Friday due to the scans they saw in the system, and that they contacted UPS and were told that the bag was out for delivery, which it obviously wasn’t (no fault of Ship Sticks, certainly – they were looking into it). We returned the Ship Sticks call at the number provided to provide more details, but nobody was available, so we sent another email requesting the UPS tracking number and any status update. We received an email later that afternoon that relayed “according to UPS your updated delivery date is Monday” (given there is no weekend delivery of ground shipments) along with our UPS tracking number.

The company did note in their voicemail and email responses (that all came quickly) that Ship Sticks has a $200 late bag consequential policy in place so the company will cover for club rental and purchases of incidentals (shoes, glove, balls, etc.), and that I would need to submit an itemized receipt to be reimbursed. They also kindly offered to refund the order, which I accepted.

The company followed-up by email on Monday morning to let us know the clubs were out for delivery, and sure enough they arrived a bit after 10AM PST, safe and sound. Given that we had the UPS tracking number, we set up an alert from UPS on delivery, which we received at 10:20AM so we knew they were at our door. A Ship Sticks email (they didn’t call to check-in again) confirmation did arrive for delivery, about 30 minutes after the UPS notification. Concluding batting .666 on delivery notification emails.

Summary

Ship Sticks has done a nice job of setting up an extremely user-friendly interface to make the process of setting up club shipments as simple as you can imagine. And we have to say, traveling without the hassle of clubs may prove to be addictive.

Given that Ship Sticks is acting as the liaison for our club shipment and not the actual shipper (which is UPS or FedEx), however, it seems that they have the opportunity to add more value. For example, Ship Sticks knows when your packages are picked up and delivered, and should notify you appropriately each time. Likewise when our clubs hadn’t arrived by 7PM on the expected date of arrival (the late end of the delivery time for UPS), it seemed like a great opportunity for Ship Sticks to proactively reach out with updates instead of waiting for us to contact them. The online shipment/tracking information isn’t updated to alert customers of changes to the delivery date, nor do they send emails to let you know of updated information. We don’t know if the company has the muscle to try to to get our clubs delivered on a Saturday since they didn’t arrive on Sunday, which, as mentioned above, is only available if you select overnight service in advance.

This then begs the question of why you wouldn’t just use UPS directly – the on-time result may not be any different (we don’t blame Ship Sticks for our clubs not arriving on schedule), but you have quicker access when problems arise and 24×7 support (and perhaps even the ability to go to the shipper’s local center to pick up the shipment if it wasn’t delivered as scheduled and you are in a pinch).

If we had a locked-in tee time to play the weekend we returned home we would have heeded the advice of the Ship Sticks representative who recommended we set up the shipment to arrive at least a day prior to play. In that case, we would have needed to select the $129.99 option instead of the $59.99 option for 5 day, which would have bumped up costs quite a bit.

In the end, what we really wanted was for our clubs to arrive on time and with no damage, and it’s pretty much what we got – no damage for all legs, and on-time for two of the three. This isn’t the least expensive way to get your clubs to their destination, of course. If you are looking for a cheaper route, haul your clubs with you when you travel (of course, some ways of traveling are easier than others). But there is definitely value to the ease of the traveling experience using Ship Sticks.

Pricing Details

Ship Sticks offered the lowest total rate for all three legs compared to the largest alternatives: FedEx, UPS and the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). We are guessing the difference in what we found in pricing through Ship Sticks versus going to UPS directly is that UPS likely gives Ship Sticks a preferred rate that we can’t obtain on our own. Our lowest-cost rate from Ship Sticks worked out to around $160 for all legs. If you have money to burn, there is always overnight shipping as well. At $420 for our full trip, this isn’t an option we would have considered, but if we had the cash…maybe. You can save some dollars: USPS had the lowest cost for the shortest leg by a good margin. It’s also generally less expensive to bring your clubs on the plane, either putting your clothes in with your clubs an incurring only a single bag fee, or incurring a 2nd bag fee that is usually less than the ground shipping with Ship Sticks.

Below are details on Ship Sticks pricing versus the competition (as determined via the competitors’ websites). Days are indicated in parenthesis in the table below and are business days.

Table 1. Shipping Costs: San Francisco Bay Area to Erin Hills, WI

Shipper/Service Overnight/On flight 2-day 3-day Ground
Ship Sticks $159.99 (1) $129.99 (2) $129.99 (3) $59.99 (4)
FedEx $622.25 (1) $473.50 (2) $353.21 (3) $101.35 (4)
UPS $490.85 (1) $358.21 (2) $278.20 (3) $68.17 (4)
USPS $203.62 (1) $105.86 (2) N/A $72.04 (5)
Southwest Airlines $0 (bags fly free!) N/A N/A N/A

Table 2. Shipping Costs: Erin Hills, WI (53027) to Northern Michigan (49740)

Shipper/Service Overnight/On flight 2-day 3-day Ground
Ship Sticks $99.99 (1) N/A N/A $39.99 (2)
FedEx $296.77 (1) $158.69 (2) $144.07 (3) $69.63 (2, yes 2)
UPS $236.49 (1) $124.13 (2) N/A $49.02 (2)
USPS N/A $49.55 (2) $24.43 (3) $24.43 (3)
Delta $35 (2nd bag fee) N/A N/A N/A

Table 3. Shipping Costs: Northern Michigan to San Francisco Bay Area

Shipper/Service Overnight/On flight 2-day 3-day Ground
Ship Sticks $159.99 (1) $129.99 (2) $129.99 (3) $59.99 (4)
FedEx $623.46 (1) $474.40 (2) $354.42 (3) $102.24 (4)
UPS $492.07 (1) $359.42 (2) $279.41 (3) $69.06 (4)
USPS $203.62 (1) $105.86 (2) N/A $72.04 (5)
Delta $35 (2nd bag fee) N/A N/A N/A

Table 4. Total Shipping Costs For Trip (3 legs): CA – WI – MI – CA

Shipper/Service Overnight/On flight 2-day 3-day Ground
Ship Sticks $419.97 $299.97 $299.97 $159.97
FedEx $1,543.48 $1,106.59 $851.70 $273.22
UPS $1,219.41 $841.76 $606.63 $186.25
USPS N/A $261.27 N/A $168.51
Airlines $70 N/A N/A N/A

Pricing details:
Prices above as of Summer 2014 calculated using the website for each service.

Shipping rates based on 42 pounds with dimensions 51″ H x 19″ W x 16″ D (Club Glove Last Bag, with girth of 48″) and declared value of $1,000.

FedEx rates calculated using standard overnight, 2Day, Express Saver and Ground. UPS rates calculated using Next Day Air Saver, 2nd Day Air, 3 Day Select and Ground. USPS calculated using Priority Mail Express 1-Day, Priority Mail 2-Day. In some instances, USPS did not offer overnight or 3 day shipping, so there is no total listed for those delivery options. Note that some companies, such as FedEx and UPS, may allow the customer to select other service options for more focused delivery times in the A.M.. USPS provides for Saturday delivery with Priority Mail.

For total trip costs, if a service did not provide all classes, we selected the least expensive option to still arrive in the same or lesser number of days. For example, on a leg from Wisconsin to Michigan where there is no 3-day option, we used the least expensive Ground option for Ship Sticks, which still arrives in 2-days. Shipping prices exclude tax (generally about $4 for each leg) and any additional insurance beyond what is included in the base offering for Ship Sticks. Tax is included for FedEx and UPS.

For travel within the United States, the majority of airlines charge $20-$25 for the first bag and $35-$40 for the second bag. Baggage fees vary widely with travel to locations outside of the United States.